Wedding Day Family Formals - Who Should You Include And How Long Should They Take?

Los Angeles wedding photographer

When you picture your wedding you picture laughing, crying, dancing, and many new memories made. You don’t think about lining people up making them stare at the camera and smile.

Actually that sounds rather painful doesn’t it?

So, how do we glide by this part of the day painlessly? By being conservative.

Who should be in my family formals?

To put it simply, you should try and jam as many people as possible in to your family formals timeline.


Please do not actually follow that advice (haha!).

Now I understand that many people are coming from far and wide to celebrate this joyous day with you and you may want to include them in your photos. However, jamming every cousin, aunt and uncle in to your family formals may not be the best plan.

When it comes to these photos I always suggest keeping it to immediate family. Here is what family lists usually look like for my couples:

B+G+B’s Mom

B+G+B’s Dad

B+G+B’s Mom+Dad

B+G+B’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings

B+G+B’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings+Siblings significant others+kids

B+G+B’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings+Siblings significant others/kids+Grandparents

**Remove groom**

B+B’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings+Siblings significant others/kids+Grandparents

B+B’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings+Siblings significant others+kids

B+B’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings


B+B’s Dad

B+B’s Mom

B+B’s Mom+Dad

**Add grooms parents**

B+G+both sets of parents

**Remove brides parents**

B+G+G’s Mom

B+G+G’s Dad

B+G+G’s Mom+Dad

B+G+G’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings

B+G+G’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings+Siblings significant others+kids

B+G+G’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings+Siblings significant others/kids+Grandparents

**Remove bride**

G+G’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings+Siblings significant others/kids+Grandparents

G+G’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings+Siblings significant others+kids

G+G’s Mom+Dad+ Siblings


G+G’s Mom+Dad

G+G’s Dad

G+G’s Mom

At the end of these photos, usually if the couple wants to include extended family, we do one group photo with everyone.

Following this list allows me to get through your family formals in less than 20 mins, as long as everyone is where they should be.

Communication is key

What can you do as the couple to help expedite this process?

In the week before the wedding make sure you communicate with all of the members of your immediate family. They should know where to be based on the timeline we created together and understand not to leave until I give them the okay.

If you will be doing the group photo at the end of the family formals, communicate with everyone that will be in those photos as well.

Pro tip: Appoint a sister or bridesmaid to contact the extended family. Take some stress and responsibility off of yourself.

How long will this take?

At this point you might be looking at the list above feeling dizzy from the length and amount of time it may take.

On your timeline, 45 mins should be set aside for family formals. Should it take this long? No. A STRONG resounding NO.

Generally formals will take about 25-30 mins. If everyone is ready and where they should be, photos can be complete in less than 20 mins.

Why do we set aside so much time? Because sometimes things do not line up. Maybe we can’t find your sisters husband or grandma needs a moment before getting up to stand in the pictures. Having the extra time in the schedule will help us stay on track.

Its always better to be running ahead not behind.


  • Immediate family (Parents, siblings, significant others and grandparents) should be in your family formals

  • We work together to tweek the standard family list I have for family formals

  • Have extended family in a group photo, or later during the reception

  • Communicate where your family members should be BEFORE the wedding. Recruit someone to help you with this.

  • Plan a 45 min time slot for family photos. No less.

If you enjoyed this blog make sure you check out my other tips like my essential wedding day timeline tips.

Crystal Stewart